What’s better than watching one of your favorite detectives work a complex case? How about two of them, teaming up to catch a killer. That’s what J. A. Jance gives us in her latest mystery, DANCE OF THE BONES.
In this new novel, Brandon Walker of Jance’s Walker Family series joins forces with J. P. Beaumont. Beaumont’s cold case in Seattle is somehow connected to a cold case Walker is working on in Arizona.
The two sleuths bring this character-driven mystery to life. Jance describes Beaumont and Walker as two homicide workhorses who have been put out to pasture. Of course, being a homicide cop was never just a job to either of them. But Beaumont calls the Pacific Northwest his beat, while Walker calls Tucson home and has close ties to the Tohono O’odham reservation and its people. So how do they find themselves working related cases, and cold cases at that?
“Brandon has been involved with a volunteer cold case squad, The Last Chance (T.L.C.), for many years,” Jance says. “Recently Beau’s agency, the Washington State Attorney General’s Special Homicide Investigation Team, S.H.I.T., has been dissolved, leaving Beau at loose ends. He’s not especially enthusiastic about being recruited into T.L.C., but what’s a guy gonna do?”
Walker also seems to be dragged into the case. In the late seventies he sent Big Bad John Lassiter to prison for murder. When John is offered a plea bargain that would free him with time served, he turns it down. Instead, he turns to Walker, asking T.L.C. to find the real killer. Beaumont gets involved when that case is linked to an unsolved Seattle homicide case dating from the eighties. Neither of them is happy to be involved in this case, but their reluctance fades a bit as more bodies come to light, and see that a stone cold killer is still on the loose.
With more than fifty books to her credit, Jance makes this novel unique by combining quite disparate series, exposing fans of either series to something new.
“The Walker books are filled with the traditions and lore of the Tohono O’odham people,” Jance says. “This is entirely foreign territory to Beau and for readers who haven’t experienced the Walker Family stories. They will meet Brandon’s daughter, Lani, who is both a traditional medicine woman as well as a trained physician. Making people aware of how the Desert People continue to carve a path between ancient and modern worlds is one of the things I hoped to accomplish in writing this book.”
Jance knows that some of her fans are “geographic readers,” that is, they only read books about places they know. Combining the two characters in one book causes both sets of readers to cross into unfamiliar territory. And Jance is very familiar with both settings.
“Arizona is home originally,” she says, “but Seattle, the place I retreated to in the aftermath of a difficult divorce, is my creative home—the place where I finally had the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a writer. I’m at home in both those very different landscapes, and I try to make my readers at home in them as well.”
So in part, Jance keeps her writing fresh by not writing about the same locale, or the same characters, each time she sits down to craft another taut page-turner. If you want to see how she does it, pick up a copy of DANCE OF THE BONES and see if you don’t agree it’s one of the best from a master of the genre.
J. A. Jance was born in South Dakota and raised in Bisbee, Arizona. A graduate of the University of Arizona, she spent time as a teacher and school librarian as well as in the life insurance industry before turning her hand to writing in the early 1980s. The author of more than fifty books, she shares her time between homes in Tucson, Arizona and Bellevue, Washington.
To learn more, please visit her website.